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Ask a Nurse: I Failed My BSN With Only One Semester Left. What Are My Options?

NurseJournal Staff
Updated March 24, 2023
    Students who fail a BSN program have options to continue to work in nursing. Check out what you can do to have a career in nursing.
    Credit: Fly View Productions / Getty Images

    In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.

    Question: I failed my bachelor’s in nursing with only one semester left. Is there any possibility to just take the NCLEX to be an LPN, then go back for my BSN later?

    The simple answer to your question is yes. In many states, you can apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Licensed Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to practice as an LPN if you failed a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. However, achieving this goal is more complicated than filling out a simple form.

    In some states, such as Oklahoma and Florida, after a nursing student completes a specific number of nursing classes and clinicals in their BSN program, they can take the NCLEX-PN. This allows them to work as an LPN while in school to earn a BSN.

    The NCLEX is offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and is a mandatory test that you must pass to get a state nursing license.

    LPN students must pass the NCLEX-PN; associate degree in nursing (ADN) or BSN students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Other documents may also be required for state licensure as determined by the state board of nursing.

    Some BSN students take the NCLEX-PN during the BSN program to gain more experience or earn money while in school. It is also an option for students in some states who fail a class in the final year of a BSN program.

    You must use the form for equivalency evaluation for the NCLEX-PN exam. The form must be filled out and signed by an administrator at your BSN program. While some states offer this option, nursing schools are not obligated to approve the form.

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    Is Becoming an LPN Your Best Option?

    Only you can answer whether becoming an LPN is your best option after failing a semester of a BSN program. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to this choice. But whether it is your best option depends on your circumstances.


    • checkYou don’t need more education to take the NCLEX-PN.
    • checkYou won’t accrue more debt to take the LPN test.
    • checkYou can begin practicing and making money.
    • check online LPN-to-RN programAn is an efficient, cost-effective path to a BSN.
    • checkgrowth rateThe of LPNs is at least as fast as average.


    • xYour school administration may not sign the paperwork to take the NCLEX-PN.
    • xhire a BSN-prepared nurseMost employers want to .
    • xLPNs do not have strong advancement opportunities.
    • xLPNs make significantly less than BSN-prepared nurses.
    • xLPNs work under the direction of an RN in limited clinical settings.

    Juggling School and Working

    After passing the NCLEX-PN and starting work, some students enroll in an LPN-to-RN program. Yet, juggling school and work can be challenging. A student may lower their stress level by enrolling in an online nursing program versus in person, which eliminates travel time to and from classes.

    However, online programs also have a unique set of stressors. For example, some students prefer in-person classes and face-to-face learning and interaction with their teachers and peers. Research also shows nursing students had lower academic performance with distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may have been related to the stressors from the pandemic and not to those associated with online learning.

    While demanding, students who are in school and working can find some work-life balance using proven strategies to lower the workload and stress level. It’s important to remember that you cannot control the passage of time, but you can control what you do in the time you are given.

    There are numerous strategies you can try to help increase your productivity each day. It’s crucial that you don’t just read the strategies but try them. You may be surprised by the results.

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      Create a strategy and schedule that makes sense

      When you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Every class you take will have unique requirements. Read the syllabus on the first day and schedule your tests and papers so you aren’t surprised throughout the semester.
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      Talk with your employer

      Many will help you alter your schedule to accommodate your education because your degree benefits them. It never hurts to ask what can be done to help you successfully work and attend classes.
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      Talk with your academic advisor

      Let them know your financial needs, including if you need to work to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. They can advise you on a class schedule that may help.
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      Make a list of potential conflicts

      You may have a pet, child, or spouse that needs attention. Be sure to account for these needs when you’re making your schedule. Remember to communicate with your family about your needs and listen to them about theirs.
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      Ditch the time wasters

      While watching television or scrolling through social media may help you relax, it’s important that you schedule it. By saying “no” to wasting time, you can say “yes” to your future career.
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      Manage stress

      Don’t push your stress to the back burner and hope it takes care of itself. Address your stress level head-on. Consider proven techniques, such as exercise, meditation, yoga, and prayer, to get you through the day.
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      Avoid perfectionism

      There is a balance between doing something well and needing to be perfect. Perfectionism will only add to your stress, lower your productivity, and negatively affect your grades. If you need help controlling perfectionism, then it’s important you get it.
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      Don’t be afraid to ask for help

      Most nursing programs, including online programs, have tutoring services. This can be invaluable for students who are struggling to grasp certain concepts. If you need help at home, think about hiring a maid or meal service for a short time. Remember that completing your education is not a lifelong project. When it’s done, you can return to life as you once knew it.

    What Are Other Options After Failing a BSN?

    After failing a BSN program, you can re-enroll in a BSN program to complete the degree. Several hurdles must be overcome to use this option, not the least of which is the financial burden.

    A BSN program is not cheap. The average tuition cost for nursing school, without financial aid, can range from $40,000 to nearly $100,000 depending on the program. This means carrying significant nursing student debt.

    While you can enter some BSN programs midway, you will still accrue significantly more student debt using this option. Additionally, since you struggled in the first BSN program, it isn’t a good idea to work while completing this degree.

    A second option is to complete an ADN program and take the NCLEX-RN. Depending on the ADN program, you may have the grades and classes to receive an ADN with minimal classwork required by the school.

    This is by far the cheapest and fastest way to achieve an RN license. It also offers you the opportunity to take an online RN-to-BSN program.

    Finally, you may decide that you would rather choose another healthcare-related field, such as a respiratory therapist, radiation technician, psychiatric technician, or paramedic. Each of these choices requires additional education to be employed.

    In Summary:

    • Students who fail out of a BSN program have several options, including applying to take the NCLEX-PN for LPN licensure in the state.
    • While some states offer this option, the form must be signed by the school administration. They are not obligated to approve the form.
    • A student may also re-enroll in another BSN program or transfer to an ADN program to take the NCLEX-RN.
    • Students who pass the NCLEX-PN may take an online LPN-to-RN program to complete an ADN or a BSN.
    • It is crucial that students who continue their education use strategies to raise their potential success of completing their education while working.
    • Other options include choosing another healthcare-related field, such as a respiratory therapist, radiation technician, psychiatric technician, or paramedic.